Brian Locking, bass guitarist who played with the Shadows in Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday – obituary
Brian Locking, who has died aged 81, was a bass guitarist who replaced Jet Harris in the Shadows, appeared with them in the Cliff Richard film Summer Holiday, then left to concentrate on his membership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses; it was in that capacity that he had helped to steer the singer towards Christianity.
He was born at Bedworth in Warwickshire on December 22 1938, though the family soon moved to Grantham in Lincolnshire. He became fascinated by music after seeing the harmonica player Larry Adler on television, and having taught himself to play, he formed a duo with his friend Roy Clarke, and they began playing gigs at the Grantham Granada.
They were joined by Roy Taylor in a trio, the Harmonica Vagabonds, but when the skiffle craze exploded they abandoned their mouth organs to form the Skiffle Vagabonds, Brian taking up the tea chest bass. They reached the final round of a televised “world skiffle championships”, earning a residency at the 2i’s club in Soho.
That led to a gig with Tommy Steele, but then the impresario Larry Parnes swooped to take Taylor away and turn him into Vince Eager, who went on to have several hits. It was Eager who gave Locking his nickname of “Liquorice” after seeing him play the clarinet (which supposedly resembled a stick of liquorice).
Locking then toured with another Parnes alumnus, Terry Dene, and met the drummer Brian Bennett, with whom he joined Vince Taylor’s backing band, which – with the guitarists Big Jim Sullivan (later a famous session musician) and Tony Belcher – became known as the Playboys. Taylor would later find vicarious cult fame as the template for David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona.
Another luminary in the Parnes firmament was Marty Wilde, and after the Playboys split, Locking and Bennett joined his band, the Wildcats, and also backed Billy Fury, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran.
Bennett left to join the Shadows when Tony Meehan left the group, and in 1962 he recruited Locking to replace the departing Jet Harris. It was not a straight replacement – while his style was more basic than Harris’s, Locking added new colour, and also added touches of harmonica.
He played on tracks that included Geronimo, Foot Tapper, Dance On, Atlantis, Guitar Tango and Shazam, as well as all the tracks with Cliff Richard that featured in Summer Holiday – including the title track and Bachelor Boy – in which Bennett appeared as one of the bunch of youngsters who take a London double-decker bus to Greece.
But after 18 months of success, Locking left to devote himself to the Jehovah’s Witnesses – though not before helping Cliff Richard in his spiritual awakening.
When his father died, the singer had struggled, and during a tour of Australia he arranged to attend a “spiritual seance” to try to contact his father. Locking stepped in to warn that the Bible threatened “dire consequences” for consulting mediums, and recommended Bible classes. Though Richard did not become a Jehovah’s Witness, within a year or two he was a committed Christian.
While devoting himself to his religious activities, Locking did not renounce music entirely, and played double bass on Donovan’s first album What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid. He briefly rejoined the Shadows when his successor John Rostill was ill, and he was later a regular guest playing at Shadows fan clubs around the world, while making his living working for a vet in North Wales.
He reprised his role in the Wildcats at Marty Wilde’s 50th anniversary concert, where he also appeared on stage with all the surviving Shadows members.
Brian Locking, born December 22 1938, died October 8 2020